Boardwalks and Basking with Jonna Z
WELCOME SUMMER! Summer, the smell of fresh-cut grass blowing through the air, the sound of dogs barking, or the sound of kids screaming, laughing, and jumping into the pool on a hot summer day. There’s not a hot summer day you can’t find something to do here in Nipigon, and if you’re like me either stuck at work or school, you are wishing you were outside enjoying the beautiful weather. The options are endless when the weather is beautiful with the sun out, the perfect atmosphere to do outdoor activities.
One of my favourite activities this summer has been visiting the new boardwalks down at the Nipigon Marina. They provide excellent access to the lagoon, and you can get to them by going down the new staircase at First St. (by the second Paddle to the Sea station) and then walking along the old rail line towards the river. The shorter boardwalks can be used for fishing or swimming. The longer structure, located about 40 metres to the east of “black bridge”, offers an amazing opportunity to see Western Painted Turtles in their natural habitat. On hot days, the turtles can usually be seen basking on a dead log on the east side of the viewing platform (toward the Nipigon Bridge). Some people have even seen ducks hanging out on the log along with the turtles! Turtles have also been spotted on a number of fallen trees surrounding the boardwalk. So keep an eye out!
There are a few things to remember when going onto that platform. You will be entering a critical turtle basking and reproductive habitat (not to mention a provincially protected wetland), so it is important not to disturb the turtles. Remain relatively quiet, stay on the boardwalk, refrain from swimming, and keep all dogs on a leash.
Although the turtles look super neat while they sunbathe on the logs in the lagoon, they are actually basking in preparation to reproduce. Basking involves laying exposed to the sun’s light and warmth. Turtles may bask by climbing out onto fallen logs or sitting in shallow water. They use basking to warm their body temperature. Animals are either warm-blooded or cold-blooded depending on how they regulate their body temperature. Humans, mammals and birds are warm-blooded, while turtles and other reptiles are cold-blooded, meaning that their body temperature is dependent on the temperature of their environment. They can cool off by moving to a cooler area, or warm up by finding somewhere warm. The sun also helps the turtles stay healthy by providing them with vital vitamin D that their bodies do not manufacture on their own.
As summer moves along there have been a few instances when locals have found painted turtles strolling along the streets of Nipigon. During nesting season, females search for nesting sites and may have to cross roads to find them. If you see a turtle on the road and it is safe to do so, move the turtle off the road in the direction it is trying to go. never move it back to another site because it will only try to come back. They know where they are, so move a meter, not a mile. Another thing to remember is that turtles often bite bait on fishing hooks, and when hooks become embedded in their mouths the wound may become infected. Hooks may also prevent the turtle from eating. Littering also degrades the quality of the turtle habitat, so make sure take any trash away with you if you are visiting the lagoon.
I for one have a lot to learn about the Western Painted Turtles here in Nipigon, but with help from the MNRF and the interpretative panels that will be installed in the area, there will be plenty of opportunities to observe and learn about these cool reptiles.